It is a measure of the impact Phil Mickelson has had on the sport of golf that he has two nicknames – some like to call the enigmatic Californian Phil The Thrill, while most opt for Lefty.
Reputation Hurt By Recent Comments
Mickelson is the most famous left-hander to have graced the game. Sadly, in recent months, now, less flattering nicknames have been whispered in locker rooms at PGA Tour venues, as he has become something of a pariah for his comments about his home circuit and the possibility of a new golf tour in Saudi Arabia.
The 51-year-old has been ultra-critical of PGA Tour bosses and became the most passionate advocate of the best players in the world switching their attention to a Saudi Golf League.
Since the likes of Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have expressed outrage at Mickelson’s words, the veteran American has shied away from the spotlight, announcing he was taking a break from golf.
He apologised for being “reckless” and has not been sighted on a golf course since finishing 18th in the Saudi International on February 6.
McIlroy, Thomas, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and others have pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour, leaving Mickelson and his Saudi friends without any superstars to launch their project.
How long Mickelson will be in golfing hibernation is anyone’s guess – his beloved Masters is on the horizon but he may feel he needs more time away from the public glare.
It would be a great shame, though, should this controversy completely overshadow all that the 51-year-old has achieved in the sport.
Lefty Has Proven Legacy
Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event when still an amateur in 1991 – and he has gone on to triumph 45 times on the PGA Tour.
He has three regulation victories to his name on the old European Tour, but it is his glory in the Majors which has made Mickelson such a global superstar.
The 2004 Masters provided his Major breakthrough – the first of a hat-trick of Augusta triumphs. The Cathedral of Pines and Phil The Thrill have been a match made in heaven.
The 2005 US PGA Championship and the 2013 Open Championship were Mickelson’s other Major titles until he added a sixth at the age of 50 last summer. A two-shot triumph at Kiawah Island in the 2021 US PGA made the San Diego man the oldest Major victor in history.
Grand Slam Remains a Possibility
Completing a career Grand Slam is his ultimate dream – he has finished US Open runner-up six times – but Mickelson’s future is up in the air.
Greg Norman, the Saudi Golf League mouthpiece, says schedule announcements are imminent. It seems Mickelson could be the headline act for pitifully weak events in Saudi Arabia, seeing out his playing career picking up massive cheques for average golf in the Middle East.
A current world ranking of 45 means Mickelson still has access to every Major if he resolves his issues with the PGA Tour. But Lefty’s legacy could be tarnished by his apparent lust for easy dollar.